Lord, how many times should I forgive?

Recently in a sermon, I was preaching on forgiveness.  I was fairly strong in the statements I made about the limits we put on forgiveness.  You can see that sermon here:  http://www.cloften.com/?cat=37 In some circles that has caused quite a stir.  We don’t want to have to forgive everyone for everything, especially if they have hurt us repeatedly or deeply.  “You can only hurt me so many times” and “Well, I can’t forgive that.” is what we say.  However, there appear to be no limits on what and who we are to forgive.  I am reminded of this, because I was reading in Matthew 18 today.

In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells a story about a man who owes the king 10,000 talents, the equivalent of millions of dollars.  In today’s money, that would be roughly 1 cagillion-babillion dollars.  It is an unreasonable amount of money.  It is such an outrageous amount of money that it makes the story bizarre.  Why would the king let such a debt run up? Why on earth would the king forgive such a debt?  Yet this is how Jesus describes our situation before God.  Our sin has run a cagillion-babillion dollar debt and he has forgiven us.

The servant after having his debt forgiven, then comes across someone who owes him a few dollars.  Rather than showing parallel mercy, he has that guy thrown in jail.  Again, this is absurd.  If the bank calls me and tells me they are getting rid of my mortgage and then I see someone who owes me $10,  I’m thinking, “no big deal.  I will make it up 100 times over after the first time I miss my mortgage payment.”  At least I would like to think that I would.  In fact, we do not forgive this way.  God has forgiven us of our sins which are great and we turn around and hold huge grudges for significantly smaller offenses.

Why do we do this?  One of two things (or both) are true.  First, we do not believe that our sin has truly run up a cagillion-babillion dollar debt (I believe this is the first blog post in history to use the word cagillion-babillion 3, now 4 times).  We think that God has only forgiven us a little.  Second, we don’t believe that by comparison people offending us represents just a few dollars.  Hurting me must be a lot of money, simply becomes I am just that important.  If you accidentally cut me off in traffic, that’s at least $10,000, isn’t it?  I mean you delayed me getting to where I’m going by at least half a second.  If you gossip about me and hurt my feelings, that’s off the chart.  At least that is what we believe.  However, by comparison, people’s sin against us are small compared to ours against God.  Do we believe that?

What are you holding on to? What grudge do you have? Whom have you not forgiven? Remember how God has forgiven you, celebrate that forgiveness and then forgive as God has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)